One step closer to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
That’s the mindset of Felix Serralles after getting his first-ever opportunity to test an Indy car. The 24-year-old native of Puerto Rico tested for Andretti Autosport at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway on Thursday.
Joined by veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and defending Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil champion Alexander Rossi, Serralles embarked on an eventful day that had its fair share of struggles but still left him happy for the opportunity.
“It was good,” Serralles said. “We had a small issue with the seat. I wasn’t really that comfortable since we were using my Indy Lights seat, but overall it was pretty good day. I mean, for what we had with the seat and the small issues of what we were going through, I couldn’t be any happier because at least I got to drive an Indy car.”
Andretti Autosport has made a number of changes to its technical staff in the offseason in an effort to improve overall performance going forward. Team president J-F Thormann attended the Sebring test and came away impressed with the team in general and Serralles in particular.
“It was exciting to be back on track with all four of our Indy cars and to test the alignment of the new personnel we have added to our program,” Thormann said. “Overall, the test went very well and we are eager to get through the offseason and see what 2017 will bring.
“Felix Serralles showed great potential throughout the test,” Thormann added. “We were happy to have been able to provide a career first Indy car test to such a promising young racer.”
Serralles competed the last two seasons in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, most recently with Carlin where he finished sixth in the 2016 point standings. He noted his familiarity with Sebring’s permanent road course from his days with Belardi Auto Racing, but added that there’s no comparison for most recent experience.
“I tested with Belardi here with an Indy Lights car a few times and the cars are night and day,” Serralles said. “They are completely different cars. The Indy car has so much downforce and under braking is just incredible. Even on cold tires, it stops so much better than an Indy Lights car on hot tires.”
The three-time Indy Lights race winner also believes that Indy cars favor him more than anything the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires has to offer in terms of physicality, referencing his time in British and European Formula 3 from 2012-14 as the comparison.
“I always wanted to move up and to finally have a chance to drive one of these cars. I feel like these cars really suit my driving,” Serralles said. “I’m a driver who likes the physicalness of racing. You know, coming from Europe and doing F3, I always like a heavy wheel and a lot of downforce. Coming to Indy Lights, it’s not even anything in terms of physicalness compared to an Indy car. It’s almost like a Formula Renault or Formula Ford.”
The goal of racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, North America’s top open-wheel level, was always the endgame for Serralles. He admitted that Thursday’s test only intensified his hunger to move up.
“I want to go Indy car racing more than anything else, that’s the goal,” Serralles said. “It takes a lot of budget to move up to INDYCAR right now, so we wanted to have a test and then see what we can make happen for next year.”
With limited seats available for a full season, the possibility of running a handful of races is fresh on the Atlanta resident’s mind. He already knows where he would like to make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut.
“I think there are a few tracks out there I’ve thought about, just in case things couldn’t work out (for a full season) and I had to pick and choose to do one or two races,” Serralles said. “St. Petersburg and Toronto, those two street courses are probably my favorite, and then Barber (Motorsports Park) – just because of the physicality of the track.
“Obviously, if it’s an oval race, the Indianapolis 500 would pretty much be the best thing anyone can ever do.”